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Cell Phone Relations


Some of the most interesting and unique questions students asked in this documentary video concerned the potentially unexplored relationships that emerge from our interaction with cell phones. In a sense, these questions attempted to expose some of the relations between cell phones and people. Or, to put it another way, these questions sought to elicit responses that exposed how cell phones affect our lives. Of course, while the responses we received to these questions are unique to the specific lives of the individuals we asked, that would be true for every person engaged in unique constellations of people and things.

The question “Does your phone help you to say ‘I love you’?” focused on how cell phones impact the emotional relationships we have with each other, acting as a powerful force in those connections (PDF transcript here). As seen in the video above, though several respondents did not believe cell phones have altered their relationships, one interview participant suggested that it certainly has. Her cell phone facilitated communication in ways that distance and time difference made inhospitable. As an active nonhuman actant in her long-distance relationship, her cell phone broadened the possibilities for meaningful interaction.

Asking “Do cell phones make lying easier?” likewise elicited divergent responses (PDF transcript here). Some respondents in the video selection on the left questioned whether the act of lying would be made easier with a phone than in face-to-face communication, though others speculated that cell phones could facilitate dishonesty. One respondent suggested that cell phones provide for a kind of geographic anonymity that previous communication devices like landline phones did not. Others suggested that the same level of guilt would not be present for them when they are engaging in a technology that demands less physical immediacy.